USGS: Yellowstone Volcano Still 21st Most Dangerous in US

Jack Phillips
Correction: The Epoch Times published a misleading headline declaring the threat of the Yellowstone volcano eruption had increased to “high.” Yellowstone volcano’s ranking of 21st on the U.S. Geological Survey’s assessment has not changed. The Epoch Times regrets this error.
“Unfortunately that ‘high threat’ language is getting confused right now in pretty spectacular ways,” Michael Poland, geophysicist and scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone, told the Post-Register of the supervolcano.

The U.S. Geological Survey said that it is classifying 18 volcanoes in the United States as having a “very high threat.”

The Yellowstone system is ranked 21st along with other volcanoes across North America.

“The threat ranking is intended as a guide in terms of which volcanoes should be prioritized for upgrades in monitoring capabilities,” Poland said. “Yellowstone is already among the best-monitored volcanoes in the world, but we expect that the upgraded threat assessment will be helpful in refining the monitoring plan.”

The USGS updated its volcano threat assessments list for the first time in a decade. It said that “11 of the 18 volcanoes are located in Washington, Oregon, or California, where explosive and often snow- and ice-covered edifices can project hazards long distances to densely populated and highly developed areas.”

The danger list is topped by Kilauea in Hawaii, which has been erupting continuously in 2018.

Mount St. Helens as well as Mount Rainier in Washington, Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano, and California’s Mount Shasta are also the top five, the USGS said.

Alaska’s Mount Okmok, Akutan Island, and Mount Spurr also saw higher threat scores than in 2006, the USGS said.

The “Pacific coast of the United States is a hotspot for dangerous volcanoes, with Oregon, California, and Washington ranking 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively,” says geologist Trevor Nace in a writeup on the report in Forbes magazine. “The highest concentration of dangerous volcanoes in the United States is Alaska, in particular, the Aleutian island chain. The Aleutian islands, while not densely populated, have the ability to significantly impact global aviation travel.”

The USGS has threat assessment levels of very low, low, moderate, high, and very high.

“Five of the 18 very high threat volcanoes are in Alaska near important population centers, economic infrastructure, or below busy air traffic corridors. The remaining two very high threat volcanoes are on the Island of Hawaii, where densely populated and highly developed areas now exist on the flanks of highly active volcanoes,” the agency said.

It added: “The high- and moderate-threat categories are dominated by Alaskan volcanoes. In these categories, the generally more active and more explosive volcanoes in Alaska can have a substantial effect on national and international aviation, and large eruptions from any of the moderate- to very-high-threat volcanoes could cause regional or national-scale disasters”

Threat scores rose for Oregon’s Newberry Volcano.

There are 161 active volcanoes in the U.S.

“While Yellowstone supervolcano does have the potential for a large eruption, the fact that it erupts infrequently, shows no signs of increasing eruption risk today and is located in a relatively sparsely populated area of the United States decreases the threat,” says Nace.

He added: “To be clear, the USGS still ranked the supervolcano as a ‘high’ threat, but it is clearly not the most dangerous volcano in the United States. The updated assessment can be used to more appropriately steer much-needed funding to the highest risk volcanoes in the United States. Unfortunately, many of the ”very high“ threat volcanoes are sparsely monitored and lack sufficient funding to fully assess the telltale signs of an eruption.”
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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